Saturday, February 18, 2017

This is How The Season Ends at the Farmers Market.

On the Last Day of the Outdoor Farmer's Market in Muskegon, Farmers Had to Dig Their Produce out of the Snow to Show it Off to Customers.

Written November 20, 2016
The power went out this morning. I was pondering this news when I stared out my kitchen window at our walled garden. Our walled garden had turned white overnight. My smartphone had turned off, needing a charge, and I had no idea of time. I worried about my bacon and cheese stored in my fridge. Beyond that, I was enjoying the double whammy. I made my way to the farmer's market, biking up hill against gusts. I wasn't ready to put the bike up for the winter when the road had enough warmth to melt the snow.
I had made a note to visit the market today. Today was the last Saturday market before Thanksgiving. It was the last outdoor market. Next Saturday, the farmers who can fit will crowd into the barn, all the stalwarts who get us through to April. A few farmers had made a case to sell inside due to the cold and gusty day. Now indoors, Laughing Tree had added fresh apple and pumpkin pies, twenty dollars a pie, to their shelves of breads baked in a wood fired oven. The man from Just Klassics had his mobile kitchen read to serve, selling soups, short order sandwiches and hot beverages. He promised to make the indoor market through out the winter.
My favorite baker of apple pie had skipped the market. The farmers from Rickertville had stayed home, and I missed selecting bulbs of garlic from their selection of twenty different kinds. I bought a coffee from Just Klassics instead of Aldea, wondering where the pour over coffee vendor had gone for the day. Aldea made all the cold days last Winter. Larry and his sister had stayed home today too, and I missed shucking and jiving with Larry, who always had an item from his collection on the metal post between his stalls. Thursday morning, he posted a signed photograph of Verne Troyer, the original Mini-Me, from Austin Powers. Troyer had dedicated the picture with the words, "No,you grow up".
Chef Char and Renae Hesselink fussed around the market kitchen, teaching pie makers, around twenty men and women focusing on baking pumpkin cheesecake pies. A few students considered my offer to buy one of their pies when it came out of the oven. Chef Char looked dashing, dressed in her signature pink tunic.
I had to look more closely at people because knit caps and parka hoods had transformed appearances. I recognized right away the woman scoring a Laughing Tree pumpkin pie. She had plans to serve with the Peace Corp in Ethiopia. Now, she would have to make do with an assignment to Jamaica. Next to her, it took me a few seconds to distinguish the lead singer of a favorite local folk band, her distinctive glasses concealing her friendly eyes. I didn't recognize anyone else, the Saturday crowds of summer now dwindled to a handful of dedicated farm-to-table shoppers.
When I went outside, I counted four farmers who hadn't made the jump inside. Amish Bob took a stall near the barn and left most of his staff of women at home. His assistant was happy to see me, declaring, "Buy these two pecks of freshly picked strawberries and we can go home". He offered me one, sweetened with flakes of snow. I chewed on the sour berry as he shilled, "Isn't that a sweet berry for November"? I had a peck of strawberries in my fridge that I was putting on my hazmat suit later today to remove. So I couldn't help out Amish Bob and his assistant. The two still had Swiss Chard and Kale to sell, which grows fairly well outside if covered under a tube of fabric that allows light to pass. "This might be the last time you see me until spring", exclaimed Amish Bob. "Let me wish you a Happy Thanksgiving then", I said in farewell.
I was surprised to see Barbara Bull selling her baked goods filled with her fresh cherry sauces. She had two inches of snow on her table, and she had to pull a cherry pie out of the blanket of white to show it off for sale. She's a cheerful woman who writes a book every year, published with illustrations she commissions from an artist in Illinois. Today, I could sense she was feeling the cold, shivering in the blasts of wind, but determined to sell all of her baking.
When I sat down to enjoy my coffee and two scones from Laughing Tree, Renae Hessenlink visited with me. I had to ask. Why were four farmers still outside when it was so much more cozy inside the barn? Renae had showed up early this morning to prepare the kitchen for Chef Char's class, and the snow hadn't arrived when the farmers picked their stalls. We were seeing the farmers to stubborn to give up and leave or retreat inside, no matter how much snow filled their tables.
This is how the outdoor season ends.

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